Education and
Public Engagement
at the Lunar and Planetary Institute
Explore Earth's Climate

Recipe for a Region

Overview

Children ages 10 to 13 consider the ways their climate affects their region, by identifying a type of food unique to the region and selecting (and possibly cooking) a recipe that features that ingredient in this 30+ minute activity.

What's the Point?

Materials

For the Facilitator

For Each Group of 10–15 Children

Preparation

Activity

  1. Share ideas and knowledge.
    • Introduce yourself and the library. Help the children learn each other’s names (if they don’t already).
    • Frame the activity with the main message:  Earth’s systems interact to create the usual temperature and precipitation — or climate — that makes our region special.
    • Set the stage for an “Iron Chef”-style activity! Explain that, like a complex recipe, many factors influence a region’s climate, including latitude, elevation, how close it is to large bodies of water like oceans or lakes, ocean and air currents, and whether there are mountains. The children will work in teams to identify a unique food that grows in your region. Like a “secret ingredient” in “Iron Chef,” the teams will focus on this one food as they each search for a kid-friendly recipe that features it.

    While they are related, the terms “climate” and “weather” cannot be used interchangeably to describe a region’s environment. Weather can change in a matter of hours or with the seasons, but climate is the typical weather pattern over a long period of time, generally 30 years or more.

    The United States consists of several regions that have defined characteristics that are influenced by climate. If you were to travel to a different region, you might expect to pack an entirely different set of clothing than what's in your closet. Be sure to check the weather report before embarking on your excursion, however; it is the nature of weather to not always fit in with what's expected for a region! Regions of the United States can be generally classified as one or more of the following designations:

    • Tropical
    • Dry
    • Mild
    • Continental
    • Polar
    • High elevations

    Your community might be particularly proud of certain characteristics of your region that attract tourists, businesses, farmers, and families — all of which depend on climate! For instance, perhaps there is something about the amount of precipitation, air, and temperature that make the area a good place for growing scrumptious regional delicacies. Tap into — and
    foster — local pride with this activity!


  2. Plan a meal or banquet to celebrate your region’s special dishes and the climate that makes them possible.
    1. Divide the group into teams of three to four, and assign one of the following categories for each team to plan as they work together to design a full meal (or for larger groups, a banquet with multiple dishes in each category):
      • Drinks
      • Meat, beans, fish or shellfish, eggs, or nuts;
      • Vegetables
      • Fruits
      • Grains
      • Dessert
    2. Ask the teams to each identify a regional food ingredient — a native, edible plant (wild or cultivated); game, fish, or shellfish; or (non-native) crop that is representative of your region — and select a recipe that features that ingredient. (Note that domesticated animals should not be considered as regional food ingredients for this activity, since their dependence on regional characteristics, such as climate, is less apparent.)
    3. Distribute a Recipe Card to each team and point out the regional information summarized on one side.
    4. Challenge them to find information about where the food grows and in what conditions it thrives — in other words, what about the region’s latitude, elevation, relationship to oceans, lakes, mountains, etc. is ideal for that food? 
    5. Provide them with 30 minutes to find information about their regional food ingredient and to summarize it, along with a recipe, on their team’s Recipe Card.
    6. Prepare copies of all of the team’s Recipe Cards for each child to take home.


  3. Conclude. Regroup the children and discuss how their recipes, taken together, make a regional meal. Summarize that the fruits, vegetables, meat, poultry, and fish that we eat ties us to the environmental conditions that produce our favorite foods.